Yesterday at 20:40 Dave Macleod was sat on top of St John's Head having just completed the first ascent of Longhope Direct. The full route, at 500m, took Dave and Andy just under 10 hours to complete.
When asked about the grade, an elated Dave said that he isn't entirely sure just yet, but knows that it's definitely harder than Rhapsody (E11 7a), the route he climbed at Dumbarton Rock in 2006.
Upon hearing the news, Jon Arran stated that: "I find it incredible that this route has seen only three ascents in over 40 years and has never been repeated (or even attempted?) in the style of the previous ascent."
He continued to explain that the route was first climbed by Drummond and Hill using any means available to complete the route. After that the face went unclimbed for 27 years until Arran and Turnbull climbed it free, taking a different route between the two arêtes to make for a line that could be more easily free climbed. It is only now, after 14 further years, that Dave has climbed the entire face whilst incorporating the original aid crux in to his line.
The route itself is fairly inaccessible, with access to the bottom of the line involving a 400 metre descent through a fulmar infested gully on steep overgrown terrain.
It becomes even more daunting when you consider that working the 8b+ crux pitch involves shunting on an overhang suspended 400 metres above the rocks below. When you also factor in the inaccessibility of St John's Head (a pathless, heather infested moorland covered in dive bombing bonxies) it becomes clear that any line on the face is inevitably going to be a real adventure. Dave has been taking trips to Hoy for a while with the aim of working Longhope Direct, and yesterday was the first time he had linked the pitches together. Dave has just posted a detailed account of his ascent on his blog, and has stated that what he wanted from the route was a "super hard long route that was bold, loose, birdy, hard to climb in a day - as pure as possible." He says that "that’s absolutely what Scottish sea cliff climbing is about."
The Hot Aches crew all had a brilliant day, and needless to say we dragged our aching bodies through the doors of 'ME Cottage' that evening with grins from ear to ear. Guy, Lukasz and Diff all jugged a fair distance yesterday, and Guy was forced to make a speed ascent of about 50 metres to catch Dave traversing through The Vice. I spent the morning slipping and sliding my way down
A video of Diff filming on ropes on the crux pitch can be seen on the Hot Aches Facebook page.
The ascent is currently being discussed on the UKC forums.
Posted by Matt